Tag Archives: Sparrowhawk

Waiting and Watching

Okay we are waiting for the Sparrowhawk.

On Saturday morning I saw a Sparrowhawk make a kill in the back garden, I am pretty sure that it was a successful kill. I have seen this hawk here twice before and so far he has visited the garden got his dinner and then disappeared for a couple of months, he has not been a problem or made any impact on the bird population. I have come to look forward to his visits.

This is the bird on an earlier visit (previously unpublished photographs)

The pictures may seem cruel but predators exist in the world as part of the balance of nature and they have to eat. Predators kill and eat other animals. Starvation is the main cause of death for these birds.

A lot of people don’t have much sympathy for the Sparrowhawk because it is cruel. A small bird like this will die quickly as the hawk’s talons pierce it’s body but the hawk will eat larger prey alive. So do a lot of our birds, Blackbirds don’t strangle worms before they eat them but it is a lot easier to feel sorry for a bird than it is a worm. The hawk isn’t being cruel, this is just how it is.


SparrowhawkThis is a juvenile bird and I believe that it is most probably a male. The bird that  I saw on Saturday was a male in it’s adult plumage, possibly the same bird. An adult male is a beautiful and striking bird, It’s back and wings are steel blue and it has orange cheeks, that orange colour sometimes extends down it’s breast. I really wanted to photograph it.

The other thing is…

My bird feeders have remained almost untouched now for five days and I want to know if the hawk that I saw on Saturday has anything to do with that.

Seed Feeder

Peanut FeederAt this time of year it is normal for bird feeders to be quiet in the UK, there is an abundance of natural food about but the last time I filled these feeders they were emptied in three days and the change has been sudden.

I decided to watch for the hawk’s return. He can come and go in the space of a minute so to know if he is staying here I have to watch constantly, if I take a half hour break I will learn nothing.

He ate on Saturday morning and so I decided to watch from Saturday afternoon until the same time on Sunday. Twenty four hours in a hawks life.

It was a no show. when he didn’t show up again on Saturday I felt certain that he would be hungry in the morning but… no Sparrowhawk, so we don’t have a problem. That’s a pity…or is it.

Instead of a post about a beautiful bird here is a post about me getting annoyed and getting a bad back.

Play with me.

FizzI can’t. I’m busy.

You don’t look very busy.

This is the garden layout. Take note of the Honeysuckle bush beside the feeder, that is a problem.

Back GardenI think that the open aspect of the garden has saved us from having any real problems with Sparrowhawks. They are a woodland bird and they like tight spaces where the prey bird will find it’s exit blocked. They also like small town gardens with high fences and lots  of shrubbery for the same reason. They are also an ambush predator.

Whine, whine whine.

The first time that I saw the hawk it hid in the bush beside the feeder and it sat there for about twenty minutes before giving up. Every bird in the garden saw it go in and knew it was there. It didn’t get a kill on that visit but next time it changed it’s tactics.

Excuse me there is something outside of my back door.


FizzI don’t know what that is and I am not opening the door to find out.

The next time that the hawk visited it flew openly into the garden, all of the little birds dashed into the honeysuckle bush and the bird perched on top of the feeder.

SparrowhawkThe honeysuckle isn’t offering the birds any protection at all.

SparrowsIf an old fellow with misty bifocals can see them from his kitchen then the hawk can see them from half a mile away. It plucked a Sparrow from the bush as easily as you or I would take an apple from a tree (a small tree that we could reach).

The second kill that I saw followed exactly the same pattern. It is so easy for this Hawk that I do not really understand why it has not taken up residence here but it hasn’t.

Don’t scratch my door! Excuse me, I have got to deal with this.


FizzCan I come in?


FizzSometimes when I am sitting motionless and staring out of a window I am actually being very busy.

Can’t you do nothing and throw a ball at the same time, or is that what men call multitasking?

Luckily for her I have a soft spot for little animals. 🙂

FizzThis is gonna be so good.




FizzSo that is that. No photographs of a beautiful bird of prey, just happy Sparrows…

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrowand a stupidly happy dog.





What a waste of a Sunday…… or was it?

Summer Birds

We are having a storm here but it is quite a nice storm with strong warm winds. Warm makes all the difference.  It has been blowing all night and so I found myself sitting outside at four o’clock this morning enjoying the wind buffeting the trees.

I am kicking off with birds today and perhaps the weather will brighten up in a bit. I have seen some beautiful birds this year.

RobinUnlike the butterflies I don’t have to say goodbye to the birds. A couple of lightweights have gone south, fair enough but winter is a wonderful time for watching birds.

Here are a few birds that have featured here this summer.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Sizewise it is about as “great” as a starling. Quite a small bird but it has wonderful presence. The female turned up about a month before the male and made herself at home.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerShe was on the feeder every time that I looked out of the window.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerEventually the male started visiting us too.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpeckers don’t really eat peanuts. As a species they are totally dependant on dead wood habitat and the insects that live therein.

The juveniles visited us for a few weeks but their arrival signalled the end of the visits. They have been missing from the garden for the last couple of months.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerMeanwhile… out on the waters edge…

Mandarin Duck

Mandarin DuckMandarin ducks nest high in trees often in old woodpecker holes. Once hatched the chicks have to leap out of the nest and plummet thirty or forty feet to the ground because they are ducks not woodpeckers. They are very light and survive the fall. It is a spectacle that I would really like to video.

Mandarin DuckMeanwhile out on the farm….

Red Legged PartridgeThis is a Red Legged Partridge, an introduced species. Introduced for the shooting they are quite common here. My bedroom overlooks fields and I can actually lie in bed and watch these birds through my window but I still have to get out of bed to get decent pictures. No situation is perfect 🙂

Red Legged Partridge

Red Legged PartridgeGoldfinches played a major role in our summer. My new landlord’s favourite bird, he had never had them in the garden. They love sunflower hearts and I filled the garden with them.



GoldfinchThis is a juvenile Goldfinch.

GoldfinchGoldfinches were not the only birds breeding here. The one that got the most blog space was the Barn Swallow. There are lots of swallow nestling videos on this blog but for me the best bit was when they first arrived.

They are supposed to mate for life. Some of the birds are just finding their mate. Some of them are  reuniting. They fuss over each other so much. It is lovely to watch.

Barn SwallowIt would do no good telling me that birds are not capable of emotions. They greet each other with all the excitement of a puppy meeting it’s owner. I have also seen them mourn when they have lost a brood. These are very emotional birds.

Barn Swallow

Barn SwallowThroughout the summer we had all manner of new arrivals, too many to show them all here.

BlackbirdBlackbirds raised a brood in a tractor.

BlackbirdDespite a very wet start to the year the Blue Tits were also very successful.

Blue TitBlue Tits have a large brood and all of that feeding can leave mum feeling a little bit frazzled.

Blue Tit(This bird is actually just moulting, perfectly healthy and happy, or it might be a Zombie Blue Tit, they do happen, I think 🙂 )

The bird that had the greatest success was the House Sparrow. They can have several broods in a year and our birds had a constant supply of food this summer, they made the most of it.

House Sparrow

Blue TitThere are dozens of them and they have been moving around the farm in small flocks. So much so that I was beginning to worry that I was upsetting the balance of nature… Until today that is…

Blue TitI filled the feeders up three days ago and they haven’t been touched, something is wrong.

SparrowhawkThis Sparrowhawk has visited the garden a couple of times this year. He hasn’t stayed very long and hasn’t caused any big problems. It is nice to see him.

I saw him or another just like him this morning. Now he is in his full adult plumage and looks quite beautiful. (no photos yet)

SparrowhawkTo have had any impact on my Sparrow hordes he must have taken up residence or more likely his presence is just keeping the birds away from the feeders. Today I am on Sparrowhawk watch.

Sparrowhawkand looking forward to a great winter of wonderful birds.

Sparrowhawk Kill

I have sometimes joked that “no animals were harmed in the making of this post” that is not the case this time.

This post is about a predator that lives in the wild and an animal gets hurt, well killed. I don’t begrudge the Sparrowhawk it’s meal but still I find it difficult to watch my birds being taken. If you do not want to see these things leave now. Visit some of my other pages on the “Recent Posts” tag I am usually quite nice.

This is a Sparrowhawk. It is a juvenile male that visited the garden back in March. It didn’t make a kill then and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts it left and I didn’t see it again until two days ago.

SparrowhawkThe next part of this post concerns today’s kill.

If it was just a matter of one bird I wouldn’t be too concerned but I am pretty sure that this bird has been hunting successfully here for at least the last couple of days. It is not always easy to see. On one occasion after the first kill I saw it swoop through the garden and try to take a bird in mid flight, it was only here for a second.

I like predators they are exciting, just not especially when it is my birds. They have a right to live and are an important part of the ecosystem. I could have tried to stop this kill from happening although the bird would probably just have flown off with his prey but I would not do that.

So this is what happened (With graphic photographs!)

The Sparrowhawk swooped into the garden and landed on top of the bird feeder, the little birds all ran for it. There must have been twenty of them in that Honeysuckle bush beside the feeder.

GardenThe hawk went in to the bush , you can just see him in this photo and he just grabbed one. A little Sparrow. Hiding in the bush was a rubbish idea.

SparrowhawkThen he brought it out.


SparrowhawkA Sparrowhawk doesn’t kill his prey any more than a Blackbird would kill a worm. If it had been a larger bird that he could not carry away he would have plucked it and eaten it alive right here.

Sparrowhawks are not cruel. Nature has no empathy between species. As far as the Hawk is concerned dinner wriggles and squeaks while it is being ate. That is just what food does. He doesn’t have any choice in the matter he has to eat to survive.

With a small bird like this his talons would pierce vital organs and the bird would die.

I won’t show you too much. After a brief struggle the Hawk took off with what looked like a dead Sparrow in it’s talons.

SparrowhawkIt would be nice if he just went away but I don’t think that he will, why should he?


Well the songbirds are still in the garden and just as busy as ever. I have some more, much nicer pictures to show you later. I just have to pop up and feed my Fox and Badgers first.


EEEK! Sparrowhawk

P1170134What do you like to eat?

I live on a farm. I rent a flat there which is really just a part of the farmer’s house, so we live on top of each other and we get along okay. Apart from paying the rent, I help him out with his computer and I walk his dog and in turn he shows me around and introduces me to people. We both have a fondness for birds and he has a bird feeder just below my kitchen window, which I help him with.


He had a peanut feeder and a seed feeder and he had a little empty tray at the bottom and almost as soon as I moved here I noticed the Robins, so I started to put meal worms out for them.


The Robins were a great success but adding sunflower hearts into the mix brought us Goldfinches.


Pretty soon the garden was as charming as could be.


All of this activity inevitably caught the eye of a predator.


We have no shortage of predators around here. Buzzards circle above us and Peregrines are often seen here too. This is a young Sparrowhawk. One of last years chicks it has yet to develop it’s adult plumage. We can’t tell if it is male or female yet but I am advised from the size of the bird that it is probably male.

It is lovely to see such a beautiful bird up close but it’s presence in the garden did raise a bit of a problem. Fortunately it’s hunting technique wasn’t very successful.


The song birds recognised the hawk and understood it’s intention. I knew when the hawk was around even if I couldn’t see it because the garden was empty of any other birds.

Excuse the quality of this next picture, I took it because I had just seen the Sparrowhawk fly into that bush beside the feeder. He is waiting in ambush and I am up above watching the drama unfold.


The hawk waited there for about twenty minutes and no birds came down so he emerged from his hideout and flew up into a tree. Shortly after I saw him fly off. Another forty minutes passed before a Robin lit down and I knew then that the drama was over.

I am writing this in retrospect, all of this happened a couple of weeks ago now. The hawk stayed with us for two days and he didn’t make a kill. A bird can only spend so much time on a hunt and this one moved on to easier hunting grounds.

So why is our garden Sparrowhawk proof? I think it is because it is so open. the garden is backed by pasture with a fairly open orchard on one side.


The Sparrowhawk is a woodland bird and an exceptionally good ambush predator. It likes confined, tight spaces with plenty of cover and few escape routes. Our garden just didn’t work for him because everyone knew the moment he arrived on the scene, they took cover and they stayed hidden until they were sure he had gone.


Typically town gardens do a very good job of mimicking his woodland habitat. They are generally quite small with plenty of cover and bird feeders to attract the food items and Sparrowhawks get a lot of their prey there, we are just lucky that conditions were not right for him here.


Since his visit I have been hunting the local woodlands and hedgerows for signs of sparrowhawk kills. They are messy eaters, they have to pluck their prey before they can get to the flesh. When an animal with teeth kills, a Fox for instance, it rips it’s prey apart breaking the feathers in the process. So you can recognise a hawks kill by looking at the ends of the feathers that are left.


Smooth tips like this indicate that the feathers were carefully plucked and that would be by a Sparrowhawk. I am not finding many kills around here.



A lovely bird but I am glad that it has gone.

Everything has gone back to normal.